Melton Christian College (MCC) discriminated against a five-year-old Sikh boy, Sidhak Singh Arora, when it decided to not admit him as a student if he did not cut his hair and wear his patka to cover it, according to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
MCC argued that its uniform policy was not unlawful because it was neutral with the aim of treating all students equally by not allowing headwear.
It also claimed the uniform policy was protected by exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the Act) because it was a Christian school.
VCAT Member Grainger found the policy disadvantaged the boy as he could not access the emotional and social advantages associated with attending a school that his cousins also attended, or the practical advantages associated with attending a school close to where his working parents, and aunty and uncle, could help with school drop-offs and pick-ups.
Member Grainger also found MCC’s uniform policy was unreasonable because it prohibited the wearing of a patka and required boys to have short hair, which indirectly discriminated against Sikh students.
Member Grainger said while the college was a Christian school, it had an open enrolment policy with over 50 percent of the school community not identifying as Christian.
“It is not reasonable to accept enrolment applications from students from non-Christian faiths only on the condition that they do not look like they practice a non-Christian religion,” Member Grainger said.
Member Grainger also agreed with Ms Holt, representing the Aroras, that it would not be unreasonable for the college to allow Sidhak to wear a patka in the same colour as the uniform.
The parties agreed at the hearing that if the Tribunal found MCC had contravened the Act, proceedings should be set down for a further compulsory conference to enable the parties to attempt to reach an agreement in relation to what orders, if any, the VCAT should make under the EO Act.
As it was found that the college had contravened the Act, Member Grainger directed the principal registrar to list the proceedings for a compulsory conference on a date and time to be conducted by another VCAT member.
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